I woke up early this morning. I was out of bed before the alarm clock and at my window seat with the computer on before the coffee was made. My first morning thought was of Teddy. I then thought about the mom who emailed me recently and told me her eight-year old son was just diagnosed with Aspergers and how she was beginning the journey. I can remember where she is. That was 10 years ago. 10 years. A quarter of my life.
Yesterday I went to Teddy’s 10th IEP meeting. I sat in the counselor’s office at his high school. Five of his teachers, the principal, the counselor, Ted’s aide, the special education teacher from his middle school and two special education advisers were together to discuss Teddy and his 9th grade year.
At first I was nervous. I braced myself as the Spanish teacher expressed a problem she was having with Teddy. Yes, she needs an opportunity to express what the issues are so that we can come up with ways to address them. But as I said, I was nervous because I never know just how bogged down we are going to get and how long the list of problems is going to be.
It is difficult to hear one problem after another. It gets tiring. For the first time in an IEP meeting that didn’t happen. I found myself with a group of people who can see Teddy’s abilities and who really want to see him succeed. They were asking what THEY could do to help instead of what Teddy had to do. They asked good questions and had good ideas. They were caring, thoughtful people. They seem to be dedicated professionals. I was so relieved. I was so grateful.
Ted’s biggest challenges continue to be organization, following directions and handwriting.
He can’t seem to get his notebooks and textbooks ready at the beginning of class. One teacher said it is the middle of the class before he has his homework out… it is supposed to be turned in at the beginning of the period. There needs to be a process he can follow, to help him order himself. He follows processes well. I can relate to wanting a reliable system. They are calming.
He doesn’t follow directions well either. He seems to get overwhelmed. I watched him as he tried to do a biology project. He spent an hour trying to start. So, we sat in the living room and together read through the assignment. He understood the project, he just didn’t know how to do it. I understood the problem. Again, I know how it feels to stare at something and have absolutely no idea where to begin.
I helped Teddy break the assignment down into small steps and then explained how to systematically do each one. To build a wall you must frame it first. I watched the light bulb go off in his head. He understood. He found a process he could put his mental arms around. He put together a wonderful project.
The final concern is his handwriting. It is still a challenge and probably always will be for him. That is what I was thinking about when I first woke up. That is what I started writing about when I first started this piece. Handwriting. How far we have come, yet some things stay the same. Some of his teachers can’t read it. The principal innocently asked if it has always been a problem for him. I explained to her his early therapy and that he was six before he could hold a pencil and write.
He still can’t tie his shoes laces very well. He was anxious when school started because this year he has to wear sneakers in PE. He doesn’t like to wear sneakers because they have to be tied unlike his Merrells. But he has to wear them. So we bought a pair and when we got home the two of us had another shoelace tying lesson. I watched the problems my 9th grader had grasping the laces and trying to weave them. Still after all these years and the hours of therapy he struggles.
When he was four we had him picking up rice to practice pinching. I remember the practice fruit and vegetable set his occupational therapist had me purchase. They were made of two pieces and held together by velcro. The set came with a plastic knife and he had to cut apart the pieces to help strengthen his hands. I can still remember sitting together at his little Fisher-Price table and chair set as he cut and I put back together the pieces of little plastic fruit. Over and over we would do this.
I am happy this morning as I think back on all that I just wrote.
You know how you can hear something but it can take a while for the meaning to have an impact? This morning, as I was scanning the IEP meeting, I could hear the principal saying this was the first IEP meeting the high school has had. They didn’t know what to do. Again, I had to call the meeting, go to Ted’s last school, get his records and deliver them to the new school, call all the parties involved and arrange the meeting. Since Teddy was two I have been doing whatever I have to trying to make things happen. It’s what I must do, it is my responsibility and today I feel rewarded.
Teddy has achieved a new height. He has overcome many challenges and made it into a competitive environment that few do. Everyone has challenges, I understand that. I am just celebrating that we are making it through ours, that we have come this far. How far we have come, what obstacles we have made it through. Ted has worked hard and he has gotten himself into the best public academic high school in the area. He is surrounded by talented students and teachers. We are a long way from when we had to hire an attorney to remove him from an Emotionally Conflicted classroom.
It is my sincerest wish as we enter the final chapter of Teddy’s childhood that four years from now I will be sitting in my window seat, my laptop in front of me, writing about having just sent Teddy off to college. I get choked up just thinking about it. There is no better life pursuit I can ever have than to do whatever I can to support Teddy through the obstacles still present and help him grow into an independent adult.